Abay Ethiopian Restaurant
A new Ethiopian restaurant opened here in Pittsburgh, and Heather and I decided to give it a go. Abay is located on S. Highland Avenue in East Liberty over near the Whole Foods Market. We had heard that there were sometimes large crowds at dinner, so we tried to make it early, arriving at 5:15.
The service was good and not nearly as slow as we had heard. Heather and I ordered Sambussa as an appetizer and a bowl of Shorba. For our meal, we had the two person combination platter with Kay Wat, Doro Tibs, Doro Minchet Abish, and Shiro Wat. For an explanation of what these things are, check out their menu at http://www.abayrestaurant.com/Menu/menu.html To drink, I had a delicious Yekemem Shai tea which tasted a lot like cinnamon tea.
The food was, well, different. The order comes out on a very large piece of thin flat bread, kind of like a crepe. Our four selections were placed on the bread with a spicy paste in the middle. The idea is to eat with your hands... You tear off a piece of bread, "pinch" up a piece of food with the bread, and eat it. Although forks are available, this style is the preferred Ethiopian style, so of course we tried it.
The food was good, but not exactly excellent. There was nothing that stood out on my plate, but nothing was really bad either. We had ordered some of the spicier dishes, but they weren't really spicy at all. The spice paste in the middle helped in this regard, but there really wasn't enough of it to use for the entire meal. We probably could have gotten more if we had wanted it though.
There was also enough food that you probably didn't need the soup or appetizer. The soup was a rather tasteless bean soup which tasted much better after I added a lot of pepper. The appetizer was kindof eggroll-ish. Neither were bad, but both can be skipped in the future. The meal for two could probably feed three people if they weren't huge eaters. I made a Herculean effort to finish off the chicken and meat dishes, but was quite full at the end of the meal. The price was very good too. Our appetizer, soup, tea, and platter of four entrees was about $30 before tip. It's even cheaper if you go at lunch.
Considering the horror stories we had heard about long wait times for simple things (like the check) we were prepared for a long trip to the restaurant, but we were in and out in 50 minutes. Not bad at all. All in all, I'd recommend this place to people who are adventuresome in their food tastes and are looking for some place new.
You can also read a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or a Pittsburgh City Paper review of Abay.